Lost babies remembered at poignant service in Belfast
Annual event for families takes place at St Anne's
A special service took place in Belfast yesterday for families who have lost a baby during pregnancy, birth or infancy.
The fourth annual Saying Goodbye service, held at St Anne's Cathedral, was attended by more than 100 people and is part of a series of national remembrance events.
Nearly 20 are being held around the UK this year, allowing bereaved parents, families and friends to join together in acknowledging and remembering their babies and to have an opportunity to say goodbye.
Yesterday's service featured music, poetry and readings, with acts of remembrance and time for reflection. Those gathered included couples, young and old, who had an opportunity to light a candle in memory of their baby and to ring a hand bell as a way of remembering.
This is unique to the Saying Goodbye services and allows parents to ring the bell once for each child they have lost. Opening his address, Dean of Belfast the Very Rev Stephen Forde shared one family's personal account of the loss of a child.
"For each of you here today - whether a parent or grandparent or someone who wished to be a parent - something of those experiences will touch your own memories, sense of loss, grief, but above all your unending love for that little one," he told the congregation.
"For a parent it is part of the job description that we are to love unconditionally even when it is hard.
"But even the separation of death itself cannot stop the love that a parent has for their child and that you have for your child.
"That love is truly eternal and in that sense the love you bring here today is a God-given love.
"This God knows what it is to lose a child. This is a God who knows and grieves with you, who stands with and strengthens every parent who has lost a child to death."
The service was organised by the Mariposa Trust, which held its first service in 2012 and celebrated its 100th at the end of 2017 in London.
The charity was founded by Zoe and Andy Clark-Coates, who have lost five children through miscarriage.
The trust now provides support that reaches more than 50,000 people each week through its six divisions. The charity provides help through baby loss, pregnancy after baby loss, fertility, adoption and more.
Baby loss affects around one in four pregnancies each year in the UK, with nearly 700 babies lost each day.
The charity said the Saying Goodbye services allow people to stand with others who have experienced the trauma of baby loss, and collectively acknowledge and remember each life lost.
Sue Clark from the Mariposa Trust said: "People do find comfort in the service and it's a real milestone for them as a way of remembering their child, especially if there hasn't been a funeral.
"In some cases people like to come back each year to remember their babies who have gone too soon."